Fashion & BeautyAmber Watkins for Ottawa Life Magazine

Amber Watkins for Ottawa Life Magazine

Amber Watkins for Ottawa Life Magazine

The March/April issue of Ottawa Life Magazine features Amber Watkins, a local swimsuit designer and her latest SWIM Spring/Summer 2012 collection. I caught up with the busy designer to ask her how she got started, who the collection is for and where we can expect to see Watkins in five years.

Alex: Amber, how did you get started?

Amber: Several years ago, a friend of mine asked me to compete in a fashion design contest she had organized in Ottawa. With no formal training and a hand-me-down sewing machine, I won first place and was sent to New York City for Fashion Week in February 2010. Over the last 3 years, I continued to produce new collections for various shows and competitions including Angie's Models and Talent Annual Showcase at the Canadian War Museum and the Art of Fashion competition for Toronto's Nuit Blanche. I also participated in several charity fashion shows and I have showcased in numerous venues in Ottawa and Toronto.

After losing my position working for an MP on Parliament Hill with the 2011 Election, I made the exciting yet overwhelming decision start my own fashion design business and to focus on swimwear.  I found a Canadian manufacturer located in Toronto and began the process of designing my first sample collection.  Amber Watkins SWIM debuted its Spring/Summer 2012 collection at Ottawa Fashion Week this past September 2011.

Alex: Tell me a bit about your collection and what sort of woman you had in mind when you created the line?

Amber: This is my first collection manufactured for sale to the public.  Honestly, I keep my girlfriends in mind when I design my swimwear.  Mid-to-late twenties or older, young professionals who can afford to vacation and are looking for something a bit different when buying a swimsuit.  I wanted the collection to be wearable, affordable and also memorable.

Alex: Your collection is quite versatile in that you can mix & match the pieces. Do you recommend mixing up different colors?

Amber: I love the look of mixed separates.  It's smart too!  Let's say you're going on vacation and you want a different look for each day, but it's not in your budget.  Purchasing two bikinis gives you 4 different styles if you mix and match the separates.  I also have low and high-rise bottoms to achieve completely different esthetics.  An added bonus is that colour blocking is very big this season, so why not try it with your swimsuit?

Alex: What inspires your designs? Is it a place, a color, a celebrity?

Amber: Inspiration comes from so many places and can differ with every designer, and each collection.  I personally prefer starting with fabric shopping.  This way, I don't get stuck on an idea and then be let down due to limitations in fabric selection.  I find a certain colour or pattern will just pop out at me and I can build an entire collection off that one fabric swatch.  I'm also clearly inspired by vintage silhouettes.  I personally love high waists and I think they can be very flattering on some body shapes.  I also like the marriage of a retro cut with modern fabrics.  It's the best of both worlds!

Alex: What are some of your favorite swimwear lines?

Amber: I like swimwear lines that are completely different from my design esthetic.  Agua de Coco is totally gorgeous; Lee & Lani is ultra glam; and my fellow Canadian swimwear designers, Montreal's Aqua di Lara and Toronto's Tosca Delfino, have created some amazing swimsuit designs as well.

Alex: What should your clients look for when picking out a new swimsuit?

Amber: I think by a certain age, most women know what clothing styles and colours look great on them, but swimwear is a totally different beast.  All of a sudden we feel exposed and vulnerable.  I advise every woman to really commit to trying on various styles and colours, because you may be surprised at which ones are the most flattering.  I often find people have a particular swimsuit from my collection in mind when they come to try them on and they usually leave with something entirely different.

Alex: What are you recommendations for properly caring for swim garments?

Amber:  Always rinse your swimsuit in cold water after bathing in a pool, ocean, lake, etc.  People don't tend to wash their swimsuits as often as they would their other garments, but for your own health you should be washing them regularly if you're wearing them often.  My swimsuits are easy to care:  Machine wash cold and hang to dry.  If there are any buttons or extras on them, then hand washing is advisable.

Alex: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Amber: I plan on staying in Ottawa for now.  I have such a great support system here, even though all the resources for designing and manufacturing are in Toronto.  I have already shown at Ottawa Fashion Week and hope to show in Montreal and/or Toronto within the next few years.  I will have several new collections under my belt, and hopefully business will be steady!

Alex: Where can we buy your designs?

Amber:  Go to and check out my Spring/Summer 2012 collection.  My online store will be up and running in the very near future, which can be accessed from my website.  I also do in-home visits with my clients, either at my home or theirs if they feel more comfortable.  I like meeting new people and enjoy their feedback from trying on my designs.  If you would like to set up a personal consultation, please feel free to email me through my contact page on my website!

Photography by Quame Scott

Hair Styling by Stefania Capovilla

Makeup by Noah at

Models by MIM: Delaney Holly, Chelsea Joynt

Fashion Editor: Alexandra Gunn

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